COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATES. - VOTE 56—ARMY PENSIONS.

Because of the absence of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, perhaps the D6il will agree to take Vote 56? I move:—

Go ndeonfar Suim Bhreise ná raghaidh thar £95,500 chun íoca an mhuirir a thiocfidh chun íocaíochta i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1925, chun Pinsin Chréachta, Liúntaisí agus Aiscí fén Acht Arm-Phinsean, 1923, agus chun Síntiúisi iolardha mar gheall ar a Riara san, agus chun Pinsin fé Acht na bPinsean Seirbhíse Mileata, 1924, agus chun na gCoistaisí dtaobh Cóir Oispidéil do thabhairt do dhaoine a bhí ina Saighdiúiri.

That a Supplementary sum not exceeding £95,500 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1925, for Wound Pensions, Allowances and Gratuities under the Army Pensions Act, 1923, and sundry Contributions in respect of the Administration thereof, and Pensions under the Military Service Pensions Act, 1924, and the Expenses of Hospital Treatment for ex-Soldiers.

Under sub-head (a) of this Estimate might I draw attention to a case which was brought under my notice in connection with the payment of a gratuity to the dependents of a member of the National Army who was also a volunteer of the Irish Citizen Army in 1916? I would like to know whether, in the ease of this young man, who served continuously during and from 1916 and also in the Army, and who died recently, his mother or father or other dependents can claim the gratuity which he himself would have got had he lived. In one case to my own knowledge, a reply was sent to the mother of a soldier in which it was stated that as the form was not completed by the person who rendered service, she was ineligible for any grant.

There are very few cases of the sort that I refer to. I suggest, in view of the good service rendered by this youn^ man from 1916 onwards, his mother or his dependents ought not to be deterred from the gratuity that the young man himself would have got were he alive. I have only the one case in mind at the moment, and I am prepared to submit details of it to the Minister. If there is any possibility of doing so, I hope he will deal sympathetically with it and the few cases of the sort that exist.

I do not know whether this case concerns me more than the Minister for Defence, or whether it does not concern both of us equally. It is, I agree, the sort of matter that should meet with some consideration. There is, of course, a general principle. At a special period when you are discharging men from an army you may give grants which you would not give at a later period when men would be in employment.

But this is a gratuity for men who saw service during and from 1916 onwards. They had long, continuous service, and in the case that I have in mind the man died recently.

That, I think, would refer to a pension.

No, a gratuity for service rendered from 1916 onwards. It comes under the heading of gratuities.

These gratuities were being given when the men were leaving the Army, and they were given with a view to enabling those men to start in civil life, or as some contribution towards doing so. The principle suggested by the Deputy is a new one. One might see equity in it in certain cases, but it does not follow that because you give a man a gratuity to start him in civil life — that is the real idea — that you should give his people something.

I only ask that the matter would be considered when I send the particulars on. I believe there are only two or three cases of the sort.

It can be looked into.

I am afraid the time at which this Vote, paper was distributed makes it difficult to deal with the question as, perhaps, it ought to be dealt with. Matters that we would like to have brought up in detail cannot now be touched upon, because the special information contained in those papers was not brought forward in time. I think we have a right to complain on that score. On the general question of the sum involved, I think we are entitled to some explanation from the Minister. The estimate under sub-head (a) shows the sum is now to be increased by £9,000. The sum under sub-head (b) is increased from £36,000 to £83,000, adding £47,000.

In (e) there is an increase from £1,000 to £3,500. (f) is an entirely new Vote. These may, of course, all be easily explained, but I think that we should have an explanation. For instance, "Extra statutory provision of hospital treatment for ex-soldiers within limits approved by the Minister for Finance, £12,000"— that is a new sub-head, and we have no explanation. I am pretty well satisfied, even without the explanation, that such treatment is justifiable, but before going further with the discussion I think we ought to have the explanation. I would like to have more information in respect to sub-head (g) as to the respective groups of ex-officers and men affected by the pensions under Section 4 of the Pensions Act, 1924. For instance, I would like to have particulars as regards these ex-commandants and majors, ex-colonels and major-generals, and ranks higher than ex-major-generals. A little more information is, I think, desired before we proceed to discuss the Estimates.

I think I may be able to give the Deputy some general information, but not the information he desires as to the number in each rank. It has been found that the number of applications for pension forms is 20,082. Up to the 6th of this month, 19,280 forms have been sent out. Letters applying for forms and receiving attention, number 802. A considerable portion of the latter number is in the Six Counties and is being attended to in a different manner. That may seem a large number, but I think that Deputies will note that there are a number of people applying for pensions who are really ineligible. It takes a good deal of time, care, and patience on the part of the committee examining the claims before applicants can be brought up to receive their pensions. As a matter of fact, the number of pensions adjudicated upon to date is very small, but every available case that has complied with the regulations has been adjudicated upon and they are getting on with the others as expeditiously as possible.

The reason that this Vote is brought in is that the pensions are payable from the 21st October, and it was thought desirable that as many as possible of those which have been found to be in order should he-paid before Christmas. This is an entirely new Vote and comes up under the Act of 1924, and amounts to £26,500. That is the estimate which it is expected will bring us to the close of the financial year. In all probability it will be found that that estimate is a liberal one and, at the rate at which cases are being disposed of, I do not believe that the amount of that estimate will be reached. A number of forms have yet to be sent in, while those that have not been properly filled have to be sent back. It would be much better for the persons concerned to conform with the regulations, as if they did so, the cases could be dealt with more expeditiously. The other question which Deputy Johnson raised is brought about by wounded cases. Hospital accommodation is being provided for those men, and where men can be made better by such treatment it is being given, and it is intended to continue it. In the long run it will save money for the State. Some pensions are granted for three months and others for six months, and the parties concerned must come up again for examination. That explains why the Vote under this head is so large.

Could the Minister tell us how much of this expenditure under sub-heads (a), (b), (e) and (f) is likely to be a recurring expenditure? The Minister points out that this is an application for £26,500 in excess of the original estimate, but I think it is rather more. As I understand, it is one of £95,500, and of that only £26,500 applies to Section G, for pensions granted under the Act of 1924. There are other items apart from that amount, the details of which one would like to have. Can the Minister say how much of that is expenditure that is likely to be recurring, as this item is growing enormously? Last year we were told — I am speaking from memory — that when this Act was brought in it would involve a liability of £100,000 per annum. Now it has grown to the extent of £200,000, and one would like to know whether it is likely to grow further or to diminish. It is a very considerable sum, and a very considerable additional burden on the nation.

I cannot give the Deputy the figures he asked for, but I can assure him that a good proportion of that money in A and B is non-recurrent. The gratuities given will not recur in the estimates, and a big proportion of the £47,000 will not be recurrent expenditure. These people have been dealt with and done with. Since I came to the Ministry I have signed a good many paying dockets granting these gratuities to men and their dependents, and I have followed in that the course laid down by my predecessor. I have done nothing without the full consent of the Army Finance Officer, and I followed the precedents laid down before I came into office. You may take it that most of that money will be non-recurrent expenditure.

The Minister is missing the gist of this complaint. I am not going to say that the Minister or even his predecessor is responsible for this, but I would draw the close attention of the Minister for Finance to the fact that quite apart from the merits of these items we have had these Supplementary Estimates within six months under the Army Pensions Act of 1923. Somebody was at fault in March last, or prior to March, in preparing the estimates. The Act was passed in 1923, and estimates of some kind had been made. Certain figures were put before the Ministry, I am sure. and also before the Dáil. We were asked to vote the figure of £109,000 and that sum was voted.

I am not saying for a moment that the additional sum is not required, or should not be paid. I assume that the increased sum is just as necessary to be administered as the smaller sum, but there is a great fault attributable to somebody owing to the necessity for coming forward with an estimate for an additional £90,000 and £109,000 within eight months. That, I thinly, is one point of complaint, and a very serious one, because the question of the method of estimating and coming to the Dáil with supplementary estimates is, I think, one that has to be taken notice of, and serious notice. Have any new factory intervened to require these additional sums? What has happened to make it necessary to have the supplementary Vote? That is the position I want to have explained. Why were they not able to estimate more closely in March last, or has some new method of allocation been evolved? I think some justification for the very great increase in the estimate is required from the Minister for Finance, or the Minister for Defence.

I agree with Deputy Johnson that this is an instance of bad budgeting, and that a very serious under-estimate of the amount required was made, but I think we may attribute it to the comparative inexperience of the Department concerned on this question of pensions. They were dealing with the question almost experimentally, for they had only just begun to pay pensions, and, I fancy, had formed no clear estimate as to the amount required. Some of these increases may be due to greater leniency. I do not think anything could be more injurious than that extreme severity and extreme rigidity should be adopted towards men who have served the State so well. The point I want to raise is in regard to subject G. There is a very great difference between the amount of pensions granted to ex-N.C.O.'s and men, and that granted to officers. Officers of the rank of Commandant, and above that, obtained very much more than half the total amount voted. The ex-N.C.O.'s and men, who were most numerous, obtained only £2,000 out of a Vote of £26,000. I hope the Minister will tell us the reason for that. It may be, and probably is the case, that it is very much harder to investigate the claims of ex-N.C.O.'s and men, and that they are better able to call on officers in high positions in the Army to give references as to their services, but one would like to know whether these difficulties have arisen, and whether in the next year's pension estimate, for instancv, the balance will be rectified. I think when we voted the Army Pensions Act we were of opinion that a very considerable sum of money would go to the men who have served in the ranks. We are now voting £27,000. What proportion does that bear to the total Vote that would be required for a year? For what period is that?

It is from the 1st October to the 31st March.

Are there a great many claims under investigation? Can this be regarded as normal, and can we say that it is a vote for three months? From the 1st October to the 1st April would be six months. Can the Minister gay that the claims outstanding would swell the vote very considerably. I think we are entitled to know, not in detail but generally speaking, what charge is to be laid on the shoulders of the taxpayers by these Army pensions. I think the Minister for Finance did give an estimate when the Act was passing through the Dáil, but, obviously, that is open to revision according to experience in administration. I hope the Minister will give some idea as to what we are likely to have to bear in the future. If the total vote will not be more than £60,000 for a year, I think we would be well rid of that charge, and feel that we had done our duty to those who served the State, at comparatively a light cost.

I rise with some hesitation to discuss this vote. I am not very conversant with the subject covered by the vote, and I would not like in any way to minimise the obligations the Dáil is under in connection with the matters of pensions to men who have been incapacitated, but I do and must criticise this supplementary vote on the grounds, first of all, that the Minister for Defence has said that he considers the amounts budgeted for will not he necessary as a whole. I say that it is very undesirable for any of the Departments of State to come to the Dáil for an amount of money that is not fully disclosed as being required.

On a point of personal explanation, I said it may not be necessary, but it would all depend on the degree of expedition with which the work is done. If claims come in which are properly authenticated, the probability is that amount will be required, but if claims are not authenticated, that amount of money, will not be required. Probably we will not be able to go through as many of them as will absorb that Vote.

That only strengthens my argument, for the Dáil is always here to consider a supplementary Vote, if required. I would rather have twenty supplementary estimates come up than take the assertion of the Minister for Defence that he is budgeting for an uncertain amount of money on claims that they will never consider. In this particular Department, the Army, we know, of course, that there has been a good deal of trouble from time to time, and one would feel, inclined to ask the Minister for Defence a question on what I might call discipline in the Army. That may not arise on this particular Vote, except that it is an Army Vote.

It is not an Army Vote. It is an Army Pensions Vote.

What I want to bring out is this: The Dáil was asked to consider this Bill, and to pass the Bill with an estimate from the Minister for Defence at the time of the probable cost of the Bill. The probable cost of that as estimated was considerably less than what the Minister for Defence says he wants to-day. That in itself shows that the position was not fully understood by those who brought forward that Act. Now we all know that any legislation of the nature that holds out plums for the consideration of possible applicants is a thing that requires careful examination in its working. The Minister for Defence says that he has already got in 30,000 application forms——

Oh, no, I said 20,000.

Well, possibly the next time he comes to us he will tell us that that number has been increased from 20,000 to 40,000.

There is a possibility that that might happen.

That is just what I am saying and what I am trying to emphasise, but the whole thing is as loose as it can be.

It does not follow that these 40,000 or 20,000 will get pensions.

We may rest assured that they will do their darndest to get them, and not only will they do it themselves but I venture to say we will have a good deal of pressure brought to bear from inside the House as well as outside that they shall get something, whether they are entitled to it or not.

I will promise on the part of the Minister for Finance that nobody will get a pension unless he is entitled to it.

I wonder does the Deputy realise that he has said rather a serious thing, that pressure would be brought to bear from inside the House to get pensions for people who are not entitled to them. I do not think he meant that.

I certainly do wish to withdraw that. I did not mean it in that sense. I was talking of human nature, and I was dealing with the question that when a certain sum of money was known to be available the ordinary tendency is in the direction of considering the Government and the State as getting money very easily, and in the direction that the expense of this is really something of an unknown quantity. If I had conveyed any impression to any Deputies that I accused them of using their position in a way they were not entitled to do, I certainly withdraw any such imputation as not being within my intention to put, forward. I was really only dealing with the question of the tendency that arises, when money is available, to use it rather freely, and my position here, of course, is that I do say, and the Minister for Finance will. I think, bear me out, that the conditions surrounding us at present have to be very closely watched in connection with any expenditure that is undertaken by us.

Those of us who have been acting on the Committee on Public Accounts have been learning something about the necessity for estimating closely, and I think that Deputy Hewat has voiced the views of every member of that Committee, which probably may be made clear shortly, that estimating should be made as close as possible, and in the case in question we have had to get an estimate very much higher than the original estimate. Deputy Hewat raised the question as to whether the new estimate is beyond what will be spent. The Minister for Defence suggests that in certain contingencies it will not be spent, but if the Department can get through claims satisfactorily then it is likely that it will all be required, but that if the Department cannot get through them more quickly than at present it will not be all required. This is in respect of sub-head (d). Deputy Hewat also says that if the work is accelerated so that a further Supplementary Estimate is required, it is better to come for a Supplementary Estimate than to put in for a large sum now on the off-chance that it may be required. I think that Deputy Hewat is right in the line he has taken.

We have learned that it is a common fault with Departments, probably even the Department of Defence, that when money is in the Department there is a better chance of persuading the Minister for Finance to allow it to go out than if it has not been voted, and there is a greater chance of, shall I say, careless expenditure, using "careless" in the literal sense, or an absence-of strict watchfulness when the sum has already been voted than when it has to be called for. I think on these grounds Deputy Hewat's comments are quite justified, and unless the Minister gives us, shall I say, a clearer assurance that the sum estimated for is likely to be required before the end of March we ought to reduce the Estimate to the sum which he is confident will be required. If in the meantime a further sum is wanted let him come with a further Estimate, and justify it.

I welcome this Estimate, and I think it is really necessary to do something for these men who have sacrificed their time, have got wounded, and in some cases have lost the use of their limbs. The total sum of £198,000 is not, I think, at all too much for the State to give in pensions to the large number of men who have made sacrifices on its behalf. I would like to draw the attention of the Minister for Defence to one aspect of the case that I hope will be considered by him with a view to getting more adequate payment than those already awarded to certain persons who are entitled to receive pensions. In some cases where men have lost the use of their right arms an amount of 12s. 6d. per week is granted, and I think that is altogether inadequate. A man who has lost the use of his arm and is not able to carry on his usual work should get more than 12s. 6d.

I would like the Minister to expedite the bringing forward of the amendments that were to be added to this Act, in connection with giving some compensation or gratuity to the dependents of men who have lost their lives through disease contracted whilst in the Army. I feel quite confident that this money would be well spent and in the best interests of the State, and that those poor fellows are entitled to it. I am sure every Deputy in the Dáil fully appreciates the services rendered by these men, and that no Deputy will object to their getting a little pension or gratuity to enable them to keep body and soul together. I sincerely welcome the Estimate, and I hope the D6il will allow it to go through without any opposition.

It is, of course, extremely difficult for a Department dealing with a new Act to estimate very closely what its requirements will be. It is almost impossible for the Finance Department to ask questions that will probe the matter very much, especially when we are dealing with conditions such as we have to deal with here. There was no register and no record of the number of men who had been wounded. Nothing had been done to tabulate the material that existed or to collect the material until the Act was passed. There were men who were wounded in 1916, and there were other men who were wounded during the subsequent period, but there had been no examination of them from any official source. There was no record at all that they were wounded, and, as Deputies will understand, it was an exceedingly difficult thing to arrive at an estimate that would be an accurate one. We had none of the material that the Department of Defence would ordinarily have for forming this estimate, and that explains why, in the case of the wound pensions the divergence between the amount now found to be required and the original estimate is so great.

In regard to the extra statutory provision for hospital treatment, that is undoubtedly, I think, justifiable. There are men getting wound pensions and it is better, I think, to give them hospital treatment, in order that their condition may be improved, and that, perhaps, the wound pension may be unnecessary or may he reduced. I think it is better for the men themselves that their health should be improved, rather than that we should continue to pay them wound pensions. I think it is desirable from that point of view to give them hospital treatment. I think it is also durable to give hospital treatment to men who are making claims and who come up for examination. The extent to which we may depart from that is a matter about which I am not altogether satisfied. It is a matter which still remains to be determined, whether men who are not receiving wound pensions, but who are ex-soldiers, should receive hospital treatment. We have, of course, recently discharged large numbers of men from the Army. Their financial condition in all the circumstances is not often very satisfactory, and it may be justifiable to give certain hospital treatment to these men, although they may not be actually entitled to wound pensions, in view of their recent discharge from the Army. That is a matter that we can only deal with to a very limited extent.

Deputy Lyons referred to the need for legislation to include men under this Wound Pensions Act who are not at present included, and their dependants, in the case of men who died of disease contracted in the Army. There, again, the difficulty is exceedingly great, because men were admitted to the Army without any medical examination or without sufficient medical examination. Men were taken in when the great crisis arose in 1922. They were hurried into the Army at that time. We got them wherever we could get them, and as quickly as we could. As everybody knows, there was the greatest possible disorganisation at the time, and men were admitted into the Army whose health would not justify their admission in ordinary circumstances. It is extremely difficult, in the case of men who may suffer from disease now to know whether that disease was attributable to Army service at all. Men developed tuberculosis. We do not know whether they had it when they want into the Army. We do not know whether anything connected with their duty caused the contraction of the disease. The matter is one of very great complexity, and it is one of the matters which are under examination at the present time. I put it to deputies that it is not an entirely simple matter.

With regard to the possibility of an over-estimate under G, I would point out that this is a matter that is being dealt with by the Board of Assessors, who determine, but who have no responsilnlity for the finances of the matter. They simply deal with the evidence put before them in each particular case. If there were three times that amount there it would have nothing to do with them It would have nothing to do with them if there was no money provided at all until the next financial year came on. The Board would have nothing to do with that. because their only duty is to examine the evidence and find whether a man had service and if he was entitled to the pension, and to what extent he would come under the Act I do not know whether I am preventing the Minister for Defence dealing with this matter, but there was just one point raised by Deputy Cooper in regard to the number of ex-Commandants and ex-majors, which, I may say, is very easily explained. The people who are entitled to these pensions are people who had pre-Truce service and also National Army service.

The number of pre-Truce men was small, and in the circumstances that arose a great many of them were promoted and attained to high rank. I do not think that anything like one-half of the claims put in are genuine claims. The number of men who actually were out in 1916 and who had continuous service right through, serving in the National Army, must really be very small indeed. I would not like to mention a figure, but it is not one-tenth of the men who claim that There is no doubt that, under an Act such as this, any amount of fraudulent applications will be made, and that even by exercising the greatest care, fraudulent applications will go through.

I have had a good deal to do with the Police Pensions Act I have been as careful and as conservative as I could in dealing with that Act, and I have turned down many people for whom a great case was made, and yet I have found that people got through who were not entitled to. Not long ago, after a man was given a pension under that Act, a certain Major-General in the Army came in and gave information which proved clearly that that man was not entitled to a pension. Therefore, I say that even by exercising the greatest care, people who are not entitled to a pension will get through.

Has the Minister power to withdraw a pension in the case where subsequent evidence is brought forward?

I am getting the advice of the Attorney-General on that, and possibly we will rectify the error that has been made. In spite of the masses of claims that must be refused, the heaviest end—the claims of the higher officers—is the end that is most easily dealt with. The man with a high record is easily traced. It is easy to trace his career and to get evidence. It will be more difficult to determine the cases where the claimants are men of lower rank, such as N.C.O.'s and men. As the Committee gets on with its work, it will throw heavy expenditure on to the Exchequer in the first instance.

I would like to ask the Minister for gratuities for dependents of men who were deprived of their occupations owing to illness. I know that these gratuities will not be abused. The Minister says that he has no guarantee that these men contracted the disease during their service. I only ask these facilities for the men who passed the medical test before joining the Army. Surely they had a doctor, and you must take the certificate of the doctor as evidence that the man was in perfect health when joining the Army. At the present time you have a very large number of men who were discharged from the Army and who are not able to work, and a great number of men who died as a result of disease contracted during service. I think that something should be done for the dependents of those people and for those who are not able to work.

We should not discuss legislation on Estimates. The Deputy asked a question and I allowed the Minister to answer. A Bill has been promised on this whole question. The Deputy can discuss these matters on that Bill and on the Money Resolution connected with the Bill.

I understand the Bill was promised but I raised the matter in order to expedite the passing of the Bill.

The point that really worries one is this. We had an estimate of £100,000 before us when the estimates were being considered early in the year. Now, before we get to the close of the year, we have practically doubled the amount of that estimate. That is a serious feature of it, and another very serious feature that arises on pensions is that the amount we are called on to pay in pensions in this State is really excessive. This year alone, in estimates—I do not want to go into them in detail—we are called upon to pay a sum of £5,000,000 for pensions.

Not for Army pensions.

A considerable portion of the pensions. It is old age pensions, superannuation, and these Army pensions. That is, approximately, a sum exceeding 30/- per head of the population of the Free State. It is time we got a little more cautious and a little more careful about granting pensions. Pensions are going to place the State in a very serious position financially, and the figures I have mentioned show that the burden has already reached very serious proportions, and we should be accordingly cautious about adding to that sum. Therefore, I would urge on the Minister and on all Departments, in connection with pensions, that we want to be exceedingly cautious in view of the size these figures have already reached, about adding to them in any way.

I think it is rather unfortunate that Deputy Good should make that speech on this estimate, as a number of unfortunate soldiers and their dependents may expect to get treatment under the new Bill. As a result of the speech just made, the Government may start to economise on these people, whereas the pensions mentioned by the Deputy were all given on Treaty rights, to big officials, who went out under the Treaty. I hope the Minister of Finance will not let the speech just made by Deputy Good interfere with his fair judgment on any claims that may come forward from Army men.

I have very little to add to what the Minister for Finance has said in this matter. With regard to what Deputy Good has said, no pensions are granted to any person except pensions that are granted under Acts passed by this Dáil, and if this Dáil says to any Minister—I do not mind in what Department, whether it is Defence, or not—that certain things are to be done and on a scale laid down by the Dáil, that Minister must carry them out. If Deputy Good can persuade the Dáil that this Pensions Act should not remain in force beyond this year, I am sure he will be satisfied, but I do not know that he will be able to get many Deputies to agree with him in that matter.

As far as Deputy Lyons' motion is concerned I think it was answered by the Minister for Finance. These pensions are based on the percentage of disability, and they are all scrutinised very carefully by the Committee that is sitting on them.

Is it the mind of the Minister for Defence that 12s. 6d. is enough?

I am not giving my own mind on this matter, I am giving you the mind of the people who were set up to arrange that, and it is in conformity with the Act and the regulations made under it. As far as the Estimate is concerned generally, the estimate was only an estimate, and, as the Minister for Finance has stated, there was no data when the original estimate was made out under the 1923 Act, and at the moment nobody could make any close estimate of the amount required up to the 31st March next. Without any statistics the estimate is made up in the Department by a very efficient officer, an officer, who, I think, everybody will agree, was never extravagant and who every Deputy will admit, kept a very tight finger on public moneys. These estimates are made out either by him or under his supervision. I will say that as far as he is concerned he never does anything extravagant, and I do not think he did anything extravagant in these Estimates. He made them up to the best of his ability without having any figures to go on. He had no data to go on, and if he did not allow enough in the original Estimate put forward that was a matter which nobody could foresee—how many people would be getting gratuities, wound pensions, etc., and the sum he has asked for in excess of that estimate, to carry us to the end of the year is, I think, a moderate estimate, taking into consideration the many claims to be met, and I hope the Dáil will pass it.

Vote put and agreed to.